Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disease that occurs in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. Gluten is a protein found in foods containing wheat, barley or rye. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body. This disease can develop at any age after a person consumes gluten. If left untreated, celiac disease can lead to additional serious health problems. This disease is hereditary, which means it runs in families. People with a first-degree relative with celiac disease (parent, sibling, child) have a 1 in 10 risk of developing celiac disease.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Just as every person is different, patients suffering from celiac disease may have symptoms show up in various ways.Celiac Disease That being said, there are multiple symptoms that are common amongst patients. These include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating and gas
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Iron-deficiency anemia
  • Itchy, blistery skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)
  • Joint pain
  • Missed periods
  • Mouth ulcers and canker sores
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Osteoporosis and osteomalacia
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Reduced functioning of the spleen (hyposplenism)
  • Weight loss

Testing for Celiac Disease

Celiac DiseaseVisiting a digestion center in the North Dallas Corridor can help you get answers if you are experiencing the symptoms above. Make an appointment at Baylor Scott and White Plano’s Digestive Center to meet with experienced specialists who can help you with a diagnosis.

The easiest way to test for celiac disease is a simple blood test. In the blood test, if a person has higher than normal levels of certain antibodies in their blood when they eat gluten, they have celiac disease. These antibodies are produced because the immune system views gluten as a threat to the body.  In order for the testing to be accurate, the patient needs to be on a gluten-containing diet.

Another method of testing is genetic testing. As celiac disease is genetic, first-degree family members have a greater risk of having it. A negative gene test excludes the possibility of eventually developing celiac disease. It is recommended to perform the genetic testing in all first-degree family members, especially children. After that, regular screening should occur every 3-5 years.

Diet for Individuals with Celiac Disease

Celiac Disease

With gluten being in multiple types of foods, it may seem like a daunting and limiting task to cut it out of your diet. Fortunately, there are plenty of delicious and healthy foods you can eat that are naturally gluten-free. The most cost-effective and healthy way to follow the gluten-free diet is to seek out these naturally gluten-free food groups, which include fruits, vegetables, dairy, fish and seafood, meat and poultry, and beans, legumes, and nuts. There are naturally gluten-free grains that you can eat and can be found in your local grocery store. However, some of the lesser-known grains may only be found in specialty or health food stores. The following grains, legumes, seeds, and other starchy foods are naturally gluten-free:

  • Amaranth
  • Arrowroot
  • Beans
  • Buckwheat groats (also known as kasha)
  • Cassava
  • Chia
  • Corn
  • Flax
  • Gluten-free oats
  • Millet
  • Nut flours
  • Potato
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Sorghum
  • Soy
  • Tapioca
  • Teff
  • Yucca

Care and Treatment

The only treatment for celiac disease is to follow a strict gluten-free diet for life. In addition to following that diet (as seen above), many people with celiac disease will take vitamins and supplements as they are often deficient in iron, magnesium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, fiber, calcium, and zinc. Please consult with your doctor to determine which supplements are the best fit for you. After determining this, your doctor will recommend a nutritionist and dietitian expert in celiac disease and the gluten-free diet to provide counseling and education. They will also recommend a mental health professional to address the psychosocial aspects of going gluten-free and coping with this chronic disease.

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